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More laughs from the Cabot Institute

The famous..erm...Maldives dykes, keeping the sea at bayAccording to one of Stephan Lewandowsky's colleagues at the Cabot Institute, more than 80% of the Maldives lie below sea level.

Although ~30 to 100 cm of sea level rise may seem insignificant, it is worth considering what this means for other regions. For example, more than 80% of the Maldives lie one metre below sea level. In this region, sea level rise has the potential to impact up to 360,000 citizens and lead to widespread migration.

I would suggest that the author, Dr Gordon Inglis, has got a bit confused here, particularly as his source says something rather different.

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Reader Comments (39)

no wonder they are worried. it's idiocy based phobia of the world, or so a psychologist might say

Sep 28, 2015 at 10:24 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Well, I hope they realise what an interglacial is, & think how foolish they were to inhabit such a dodgy place, so vulnerable to the elements & the sea in particular! Besides, as said before, when sea-front property prices start to fall, then, & only then, will I possibly start to listen to the doomsayers!

Sep 28, 2015 at 10:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

FWIW, what he in fact should have said was "more than 80% of the Maldives lie below one metre above sea level"

Also FWIW, we've being going there every year since 1998, and we see no signs at all that the place is slowly being submerged by the sea.

What we do see, however, is a steady recovery of the coral reefs from the 1998 coral bleaching.

Sep 28, 2015 at 10:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Boyce

I worked on the Maldives years ago, satellite photographs show no change recently. What planet does Inglis inhabit?

Sep 28, 2015 at 11:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

No one tell them!

It will be interesting to see how soon they realise the mistake - which will be a measure of how often they read the Bishop....

Sep 28, 2015 at 11:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

If you measure the land -sea boundary as the line of mean sea level, then I suppose a country made mostly of low lying islands would have a significant portion that is covered by water at high spring tide. That'd be good enough for a low lying colleague of Stefan Lewandowsky.

Sep 28, 2015 at 11:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterBloke down the pub

It might be worth adding, just in case no-one notices it, that the source report is 11 years old.

Bloke down the pub
The absence of a hyphen between 'low' and 'lying' in that last sentence is deliberate, I assume!

Sep 28, 2015 at 11:31 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

A low lie seems to describe it.

Sep 28, 2015 at 11:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

For the sake of argument, let's say "above" is "below" and that the sea defences are being overwhelmed by rapidly rising sea levels - just as a thought experiment.

Is it cheaper to raise the price of energy for the whole planet or to evacuate 360,000 people (or 400,000 by now)?

Once again, they have the wrong problem
But they also have the wrong answer to that wrong problem.

Sep 28, 2015 at 12:02 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

They also managed to slip in a new international unit of global-warming sea-level rise:
The (world famous) Wills Memorial Building in Clifton.
Shurely shome mishtake? No. It's true.

Sep 28, 2015 at 12:14 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

MJ: I suspect there should have been a comma between the two, not a hyphen.

Sep 28, 2015 at 12:24 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Sep 28, 2015 at 12:02 PM |M Courtney

That is the crux of the matter. Energy may indeed be more important than any coast, including the major cities of the World. In reality, cities like London could be protected indefinitely. The only reason we don't build higher barriers is because it would spoil the view. It's only very recently that we've fixed buildings to a specific ground height and location. In the past we would have just moved and never worried about whether a property would survive 50 years, let alone hundreds.

Sep 28, 2015 at 12:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

We went to the Maldives on our Honeymoon. I remember being told at the time that the Maldives wouldn't be there in 20 years, it would all be underwater.

Next year is our silver wedding anniversary.

Sep 28, 2015 at 12:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul

'one of Stefan Lewandowsky's colleagues ' you need say no more

Sep 28, 2015 at 12:40 PM | Unregistered Commenterknr

The Maldive tourist industry does really well out of free publicity. Everyone keeps going to see them before they are gone. Evidence since photography began, suggests this could be a perpetual money earner.

Radical Rodent, more conflict between commanists and hyphenistas? It could be Apostralypse Now.

Sep 28, 2015 at 12:42 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

The surface of the Maldives was probably no more than 1 meter above sea level during the last Glacial Maximum when sea levels were around 120 meters lower than they are at present. Coral growth since then has maintained this situation for the last +/- 20 ka during which period the average annual sea level rise was about 6 mm/ year. The average rate of sea level rise in the 20 th century was 1.8 mm/ yr. The corals will not have much difficulty keeping pace with this - unless of course they are covered by hotels, restaurants and airports.

Sep 28, 2015 at 12:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaleoclimate Buff

Mind you, there is a question of whether or not the lagoons within the atolls are part of the Maldives or not; if so, what proportion of the islands do they represent? With that in mind, it could be that 80% could be an underestimation.

Of course, an article like this does overlook the fact that islands like the Maldives are formed from the reefs acting as sand-traps capturing the sand that is formed from the erosion of older coral and depositions of the many other solids that life extracts from the chemical mix of the surrounding ocean (shells, skeletons, and even the squishy bits). Oh, yes – and not forgetting that storms and rough weather are also an important part of the process.

Sep 28, 2015 at 12:48 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Another "upside down" piece of data?

Perhaps the Cabot Institute have decided to use Mannian methods, seeing his worldwide fame and scientific standing.

Sep 28, 2015 at 12:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitter&twisted

I say, Golf Charlie, that is rather witty. Be warned – keep up with such cleverness, and you could end up on my hate list!

Sep 28, 2015 at 12:49 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Any chance of climate science funding for a 10year study of changing sea levels around the Maldives? I can sail and scuba dive, and could resume instructing both, if anybody else fancies a relaxing work environment, at someone else's expense.

It would also allow frequent opportunities to study climate scientists hard at work, testing world cuisine, and their employer's expense accounts.

Sep 28, 2015 at 1:00 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

"......cursed with mounting evidence of an environmental catastrophe.."

"....To the naked eye, the signs of climate change are almost imperceptible..."

He has a pretty low threshold for 'evidence' obviously.

Sep 28, 2015 at 1:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

So how much are Exoctic Beachfront Timeshare Condos and Hotel Rooms in the Maldives these days.

Wide spread panic migration and leave room for the corporations and property sharks to buy up there Tourist Industry.

Sep 28, 2015 at 1:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

The real problem for the Maldives is that they have been mining the coral reefs around the atolls to build houses and hotels. This means that the percentage of live corals has declined dramatically as the effluent from the effort poisons corals around the mined areas. Naturally coral atolls will rise as the ocean level goes up but dead coral cannot do this.

In effect they are digging out their foundations and then complaining about the subsidence. A notable exception to the practise of using mined coral is Gan International Airport which was built by the RAF who imported cement and aggregates for the purpose.

See Brown, B.E. and Dunne, R.P. 1988. The environmental impact of coral mining on coral reefs in the Maldives. Environmental Conservation

Sep 28, 2015 at 1:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterKeith Willshaw

They had better start building some more underwater airports then!

Sep 28, 2015 at 1:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Homewood

The prejudice and pessimism I succumbed to reading the launch statement / mission plan for the Cabot Institute have been eclipsed by their stellar achievements in so many ways....

Sep 28, 2015 at 2:29 PM | Registered Commentertomo

Paul Homewood;

Hang on a sec, they're not talking about seaplanes, are they?

Sep 28, 2015 at 2:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterRightwinggit

If you are living in such a low lying place in the Pacific, your real worry is typhoons and tsunamis. Artifacts of pacific islanders have been found on many small uninhabited islands where they were probably drowned at some point. Furthermore, many places in the world have changed over time for better or worse, and people had to adapt. 6000 yrs ago the Sahara was a grassland with huge lakes but dried up as the world COOLED. Wrong problem, wrong solution.

Sep 28, 2015 at 2:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterCraig

The Maldive Islands lie right in the deepest geoid hole in the world - some 100 m below the rotational ellipsoid.

A 2% change in sea level would submerge most of the islands. Thus the real danger to the Maldives is the stability of the geoid.

Sep 28, 2015 at 2:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrederick Colbourne

"Malé is the capital and most populous city in the Republic of Maldives. With a population of 153,379[1] and an area of 5.8 km2, it is also one of the most densely populated cities in the world" - Wikipedia

Maldives are absolutely dependent on fossil fuel for their food, and their tourist industry. I wager that Maldives has the world's the highest per capita carbon footprint.

'No wonder it was the first country to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol, which sets targets for cuts in industrialised countries' greenhouse gas emissions.'

Ahhh . . . it doesn't apply to them, as they are not "industrialized." But take full advantage of industrialization elsewhere for ships and planes to keep them alive.

Sep 28, 2015 at 3:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterGamecock

knr, the whole of the University of Bristol is now staffed by 'colleagues of Stefan Lewandowsky'.

Sep 28, 2015 at 3:51 PM | Registered Commentershub

shub, being a colleague, or former colleagus of Lewandowsky, may be an interesting legal defence, for years to come.

Sep 28, 2015 at 3:59 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Gamecock, it is coincidence that small islands, with increasing populations, are the most fearful of big storms damaging the lives of people now living in areas considered too dangerous by their grandparents.

The wealthy islanders already own the land not at risk.

It is obvious that if International experts invent a new cause, and say the international community should pay for it, everybody will want to live in decent houses not at risk from storms.

The poorest are being used as disposable pawns, by people who are comfortably housed.

Sep 28, 2015 at 4:19 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

I see that the Maldives have a tidal range of 1.2m. (0.2m to 1.4m) from here:

Sep 28, 2015 at 4:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Richards

Steve Richards, remote islands offer little resistance for the tides to build up against. The UK and Channel Islands on the other hand, are not remote, and get caught up in a lot of resistance, and have large tidal ranges.

Sep 28, 2015 at 4:56 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

360,000 people dumb enough to live within 1 metre of the sealevel ain't my problem.

Their stupidity is not a reason for me to forego heating, power and transportation.

Sep 28, 2015 at 6:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Ooh, that’s a bit harsh, Mr Alder. What puts it more into perspective is that whether or not we do forego heating, power or transport, it will make no difference to the situation.

Golf Charlie: I think it is a lot more complex than that; the Pacific has a very small tidal range, whether on a remote island or not. The ocean that has the greatest tidal ranges is the North Atlantic, and it is probably something to do with harmonics; were the Atlantic a bit wider or narrower, the ranges would not be quite so dramatic.

Sep 28, 2015 at 7:26 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

The man's name is spelled Stephan Lewandowsky. There's an easy to remember mnemonic that gets all the letters in front of you, so you don't writer Stefan Lewandowsky, Stephan Lewandowski, etc., etc.

Sep 28, 2015 at 9:35 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

Paging Dr Gordon Inglis!

Here is a link for you; there is no need to panic:

There will be no climate refuges from the Maldives. They are too busy taking money from tourists and constructing airports to get more of them.

Sep 29, 2015 at 12:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

Tiny CO2: I once read a science-fiction novel that featured a future version of the Thames barrier. The river water had to be pumped UP to sea level at low tide. (And the hero's best friend was trapped in the pump chamber. Of course...)

Oh rats, I thought, she's a global warmer! Then I realised. It was set five hundred years in the future. Most of London will be under water then whatever happens. Barring super-scientific civil engineering projects...

Sep 29, 2015 at 10:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterUncle Gus

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